Walking through the chain link gates into Brook Run Dog Park, it’s easy to see it’s a place people care about.
Under the tall canopy of trees, nothing appears to be there by accident. Tidy clumps of monkey grass and logs surround benches volunteers assembled to raise money for the park. Little blue clean-up bags tied around trees and fences are frequently replenished by a loyal legion of volunteers. Homemade wooden plaques around the perimeter fence honor beloved pets.
“We’ve taken good care of it all these years,” said Laine Sweezey, president of the Brook Run Dog Park Association. “We feel very slighted we’re not getting any credit for that, or any support.”
The dog park, located on nearly four acres of Dunwoody’s Brook Run Park, has often been controversial. It is viewed by some Dunwoody residents as a punishment foisted upon them by former DeKalb County CEO Vernon Jones, a reminder of the time before Dunwoody was a city. Others look at the erosion and compacted soil from years of use as a threat to the park’s mature trees.
Now, many of the dog park’s regular patrons are upset about a city of Dunwoody plan to move the dog park to a different area of Brook Run. Though the new plan includes bathrooms, water fountains and shaded seating areas, dog park regulars are still upset about the move.
“Moving it and giving us fancy bathrooms is not going to make it better,” said regular patron Beth Gantt. “We don’t want to see it go.”
But city spokesman Bob Mullen said the decision to move the park was based on arborists’ studies that showed the trees were in danger. A 2012 study by Arborguard details severe soil compaction, exposed tree roots due to erosion, and damage from pedestrian traffic and dog chewing.
“Should the dog park be continuously used in this way, it can be expected that within seven to 10 years, all trees in this area will be dead,” the study reads.
City officials said they have listened to dog park users and have come up with a plan for a new dog area in a different part of the park. The new design calls for 1/4 of an acre to 1/3 of an acre for a small dog play area. The main dog park will be divided into two areas, which will be alternated every three to four months to allow the land in one area to rest while the other is in use.
“The overall acreage in the boundaries of the new dog park will be similar in size to the existing dog park, however the new design incorporates a “small dog” park area and a “large dog” park area, and also allows for areas to be closed for recovery and maintenance,” Mullen said.
Dog park users say the shade at the current location is a large part of its appeal and something they feel simply cannot be replaced.
“The best part of the dog park is the trees,” said Samantha Suggs, another regular visitor. “I’d say it’s an easy 10-degree difference, and just makes it so much nicer for the dogs on those summer days.”
Sweezey said she doesn’t think the dog parks’ opponents have taken the time to look at all the positive things the park brings to Dunwoody. Sweezey said the Brook Run Dog Park has repeatedly been named by publications such as Atlanta Magazine as the best dog park in the city. She worries that by moving the dog park, Dunwoody is squandering one of its greatest assets.
“It gives a really positive image to Dunwoody. People now know where Dunwoody is because it’s the city that has the best dog park,” Sweezey said.
The Brook Run Dog Park Association holds monthly clean-up days, she said. Sweezey updates a Facebook page for the dog park and sends out newsletters. Recently, volunteers from the dog park collected 200 pounds of dog food to donate to an animal shelter that was running low on supplies, Sweezey said.
“It truly is a community. It’s a cliché, but it really is,” Sweezey said. “The bonds that have occurred out there over the years are phenomenal.”
Sweezey visits the park every day with her dog, Bama. On a recent afternoon, she walked around with a few plastic bags in her pocket, stopping every so often to pick up dog waste. She greeted a woman and her daughter, walking their new puppy through the park, and gave them her business card. She told them to call her if they had any questions about the dog park or wanted advice on puppy-rearing.
Before long, two German Shepherds came running into the park and Sweezey greeted them enthusiastically. “At any given time I can usually name most of the dogs in the park,” Sweezey said.
Suggs, the German Shepherds’ owner, said she’s met a lot of people at the dog park, including Sweezey, who now baby-sits Suggs’ dogs when she’s out of town.
“People just come up and start talking to you. You have your dogs in common. It just opens up the conversation,” Suggs said.
Lamont Robeson is another regular, who comes with his Shar Pei, Maserati, nearly every day. Robeson said before he adopted him, Maserati was abused, and it has taken a while for him to trust people again.
“Everybody’s really nice,” he said. “This is a good place for him to be.”
For some, the dog park is more significant than just a place to let their dogs run around.
There are dog parks in several other parks around metro Atlanta, including:
Morgan Falls Overlook Park
200 Morgan Falls Road Sandy Springs, 30350
3524 Keswick Drive, Chamblee, 30341
1320 Monroe Drive, Atlanta, 30309
Gantt said her fiancé, Bryan Rosengrant, proposed to her at the dog park in March.
“We’ve lived up the street from the park for about two years and we go to the park almost every day,” Gantt said.
She said the dog park is a special place for the couple. They spend about an hour there each day sitting on the benches together as their dogs run around and play. But Gantt said she was “totally surprised” when on one of these evening visits to the dog park her boyfriend got down on one knee, and pulled a diamond ring out his pocket.
“He wanted to make sure it was at the park so the whole family could be included, which I thought was adorable,” Gantt said.